While some immigration rights advocates cheered the passage of a new immigration reform bill on Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, LGBT groups are angry over Democrats’ refusing to pursue an amendment guaranteeing undocumented immigrants same-sex couples the right to petition for family visas.
“Instead of eliminating years of exclusion of LGBT people from the immigration system, they decided to take a stance with the Republican party, not with their base,” GetEQUAL co-director Felipe Sousa-Rodríguez told The Raw Story on Wednesday. “I think that they should be held accountable to that.”
Rodríguez singled out Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for criticism, calling for LGBT leaders to distance themselves from the latter in a statement released on Tuesday.
“We should take away our support,” Rodríguez said of Schumer. “Because if somebody is not willing to stand up for us when the time comes, then why should we be standing up for them? I think that people on the ground are tired of pretty speeches. We want more than words. We want actions.”
Schumer was also criticized by another group, Immigration Equality, in a statement posted online Tuesday.
“From the beginning we told Senator Schumer that it would only get harder to add LGBT families to the bill,” said Rachel B. Tiven, who leads the organization’s action fund. “We are disappointed that Senator Schumer and his ‘Gang of 8’ colleagues accepted a false choice between LGBT families and immigration reform, when the truth is that including LGBT families from the outset would have strengthened the bill.”
The bill was passed after Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) said he would not offer the same-sex visa amendment due to pressure from the White House, in order to present it on the Senate floor.
According to the Washington Post, the Republicans who were part of the “Group of 8” reaffirmed their threat to abandon the bill if LGBT couples were included; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said during the hearing, “You’ve got me on immigration. You don’t have me on marriage. If you want to keep me on immigration, let’s stay on immigration.” In January 2013, one of the group’s members, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), compared the inclusion of protection for same-sex couples to offering “free abortions.”
“It is deplorable that a small number of Senators have been able to stand in the way of progress for lesbian and gay couples torn apart by discriminatory laws,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin told the newspaper. Griffin also said he was disappointed in the Democrats on the commission for not forcing a vote on the amendment before letting it go.
For its part, the the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and a group of LGBT and immigration advocacy organizations had kind words for Leahy in a joint statement posted on GLAAD’S website.
“We are disappointed that certain senators threatened the entire immigration reform bill simply because it affords 28,500 same-sex binational couples equal immigration rights,” GLAAD said in its statement. “At the same time, we thank Senator Leahy for standing up for these families.”
Meanwhile, Rodríguez’s group and other organizations held a small rally in front of Rubio’s office in Miami.
“What we did is show that, it doesn’t matter what happens, we’re watching what Senator Rubio is doing — every word he says,” Rodríguez said. “And we’ll hold him accountable to everything that excludes LGBT people or any type of provision that we care for.”
[Image via Agence France-Presse]